Combining the humor and warmth of Bringing Up Bébé with the insight of The Smartest Kids in the World, World Class is a firsthand exploration of how American schools are failing our children and what parents can learn from the Asian education system to help our children excel in today’s competitive world.
When Teru Clavel’s oldest child was barely two, she watched with horror as fellow parents vied to secure a place for their kids in elite New York City preschools, setting their toddlers off on a cutthroat race to the Ivy League. When she had the opportunity to move to Hong Kong, off the family went to Asia without realizing just how much they’d all learn in the process.
Through the decade she spent raising three kids in Asia, Teru came to realize why Asian children are among the smartest kids in the world. In Hong Kong, she nicknamed her children’s public school “The Prison”; its foreboding, bare-bones facilities were a world apart from the posh international schools where most ex-pats sent their kids, and her three-year-old son James came home with homework every night. In Shanghai, in a local school without running water or toilets, no one is “just not good at math”. The teachers employed rote memorization, relied on handwritten drills, and taught the multiplication tables to mastery, giving her kids a foundation for math that was truly a world apart from the American experience. In Tokyo, her children and their classmates were responsible for school chores, like cleaning the toilets and preparing and serving school lunches.
These schools were low-tech and bare-bones, with teachers who demanded obedience and order. Yet Teru was shocked to find that her children truly thrived in this competitive culture; they learned to be self-reliant, resilient, and above all, discovered a lifelong love of learning.
The true culture shock came when she returned to the States with her trilingual children and found their top California public school woefully ill-prepared to meet their needs. Her kids were passing, but the schools were failing them.
In this pause-resisting and eye-opening audiobook, Teru illustrates the best of Asian education philosophies and parenting culture and gives you the know-how on how to apply these ideas in the US. Researched over 10 years and written with humor and wit, World Class is a revolutionary guide to setting your children on a path toward lifelong learning and success.
Ce que les auditeurs disent de World Class
Best audio-book on education
Teru Clavel gives the listener a fascinating journey through the education systems of 5 cities in 3 countries along with an entertaining and compassionate personal memoir. She has a witty and self-depreciating style that allows us to watch her grow as she moves from a seemingly selfish and cut-throat New York where parents fight for spots at elite pre-schools so their kids can get into Harvard, to egalitarian China and the collective culture of Japan, and back to wealthy but dysfunctional Palo Alto.
Along the way she gives her insights into selecting and working with your children’s schools and providing the best educational environment at home in the form of practical tips interspersed in the text. The contrasts between the US and Asian approaches to education and parenting are striking and eye-opening.
Clavel provides a very well researched and thoughtful analysis of why the choices made by the US education system and US parents fail to provide a world class education for our kids, particularly those in poorer neighborhoods. She details how our school funding model places too much burden on the local community by providing just 10% of funds from the federal government vs. China and Japan where all schools are well funded and poorer schools actually get more resources not less. In addition, the teaching profession in Asia is highly regarded and trusted – being a teacher is a revered position and parents trust them to put their children’s needs first.
The third key theme in the book is on the individual and collective approach to parenting. Not only are there much higher academic expectations placed on kids in Asia vs the US, but perhaps surprisingly Asian societies apparently foster self-reliance in their kids. Children are taught mastery of every subject regardless of natural proclivity, and academic success in school is valued by children and parents alike rather than sporting accomplishments, family wealth or social skills. By contrast, in the US we seem to think it’s ok to be bad at math because every child is special in their own way, and we advocate for our children in a manner that is both dis-empowering and disincentivizing for them.
This was a personal read for me as I have raised my three kids in 4 cities on 4 continents and I wish I had had this book to guide me through the complex decisions that come with selecting and working with schools, and helping my children thrive in education. I felt somewhat shamed by the contrast between my own haphazard approach to schooling and parenting and Clavel’s clear, well thought out method. She translates her passion and rigor for the education of her own children into a well-considered treatise on what we need to do in the US to prepare the next generation for the global competition that they will face.
This is a very timely book as we consider the US’s place in the world as a country and think about how we will maintain our current leadership position. It’s a cliché, but our children are our most precious resource and we need to use our considerable resources to educate them all better than we currently are.